Amelia Forman-Stiles ’18.Amelia Forman-Stiles ’18.

WERU’s radio program, Reproductive Left, handles social and political issues that impact sexual and reproductive health.

Amelia Forman-Stiles ’18, who is currently pursuing an internship with Reproductive Left, was recently interviewed by host Abbie Strout of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center about comprehensive sexuality education. As a mother of two, she explained why she wants her kids to receive sex ed at school, and what effective sexuality education should entail. 

Forman-Stiles believes it should be a holistic program, encompassing not just the biological, but also the “emotional, physical, relational and psychological aspects of being a human being who will most likely engage with another human being on an emotional, sexual, relational, or psychological level,” she says. Some important themes of this curriculum should include human rights, gender equality, communication skills, consent, LGBTQ, abortion, contraception, sexual violence, and abuse.

“A holistic curriculum will help normalize the many ways that we show up as sexual human beings and really just as human beings in general” -  Amanda Forman-Stiles ’18.

The age at which children receive this education is important. Forman-Stiles feels it should begin before they start asking questions, when parents teach them the names of their body parts. There are debates surrounding what kinds of information is age appropriate, but accuracy is always best, she says.

“When your child starts asking where babies come from, it’s okay to talk about penis and vagina and sperm and egg and donors and IVF…children will take in what is useful to them and the rest will be like water off a ducks back…they’ll lose interest,” says Forman-Stiles. “Study after study confirm and show that the more informed youth are about their bodies and their rights and things like pleasure and consent and birth control and the more communication skills they’ve acquired through a good sex ed curriculum, the longer they’re apt to delay having intercourse and the rates of STIs and teen pregnancies decrease significantly.”

All youth suffer from lack of information on healthy sexuality, but the LGBTQ community is especially vulnerable. In denying them recognition in the curriculums, we denied their existence, Forman-Stiles says.

“It robs them of a normalized place in society with their peers, which is not only dangerous from a physical standpoint when you’re talking about STIs, sexual violence and HIV, but it is dangerous from a psychological standpoint as well,” says Forman-Stiles.

Already targets of bullying and discrimination, the LGBTQ youth, are at a greater risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide. “There’s increasing evidence that positive discussion of LGTQ people and their issues decreases these risks and builds stronger communities in the schools.”

Sex ed curriculums inclusive of these children can have major positive impacts.

In Maine it is required that schools offer sexuality education, teaching students about contraception, STIs, HIV, abstinence. The program, compared to that of other states, is considered more progressive, with each school board deciding what information to include in the course.

In some ways, school becomes like a second home for children. Some children get most of their information about sexuality from media sources and their peers. If not engaging in informed dialogue with their parents, but having unrestricted access to the media, the type of knowledge these children are going to receive and share with peers will be potentially inaccurate, irresponsible, and possibly laden with social biases.

This is where a comprehensive sex ed curriculum in schools can make a difference, providing all children with the same reliable and scientifically sound information.

“Then the conversations that they have with one another will be based on fact…a good holistic curriculum will help normalize the many ways that we show up as sexual human beings and really just as human beings in general,” says Forman-Stiles.

Listen to Reproductive Left: All Schools Need Comprehensive Education